Under-pressure Belgium not in ‘crisis mode’, says Castagne

Published December 1, 2022
Belgium's defender Timothy Castagne reacts as he attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha on Wednesday on the eve of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football match between Croatia and Belgium. — Reuters
Belgium's defender Timothy Castagne reacts as he attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha on Wednesday on the eve of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football match between Croatia and Belgium. — Reuters

DOHA: Belgium are not in “crisis mode” ahead of their crucial World Cup Group ‘F’ match against Croatia despite rumours of infighting and division in the squad, full-back Timothy Castagne said on Wednesday.

The world’s second-ranked side have to win at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Thursday to be sure of reaching the last 16 after a surprising 2-0 loss to Morocco.

Belgium have reached at least the quarter-finals at each of the past four major tournaments but have struggled in Qatar, labouring to a 1-0 win over Canada in their opener.

However, Leicester defender Castagne said spirits in the camp were high.

“Our confidence isn’t as low as people think,” he said. “We know that we have our destiny in our own hands. It’s true we didn’t play so well in the first two matches but we’re not in crisis mode like some people are saying in the press.”

Belgium will have to push for the win as a draw would leave them needing Morocco to lose heavily to Canada in order for the Belgians to go through.

Kevin De Bruyne said before the Morocco game that Belgium were “too old” to win the tournament.

Seven of Belgium’s starting XI against Morocco are in their 30s, while 10 of the 14 players who featured in the 2018 semi-final loss to eventual winners France are still in the squad.

Players held clear-the-air talks for over an hour after the def­eat by the north African team.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had already hit out at “invented stories” about the Belgian players and coach Roberto Martinez criticised “fake news” on Wednesday.

“Some people are quite happy to jump on fake news, which is quite astonishing,” said the Span­iard. “This generation is the golden generation of Belgian football, there is no doubt,” said Martinez.

“They got a bronze medal at the 2018 World Cup and kept the national team at the top of the world rankings for four years.... Leaving a legacy goes a lot further than winning a tournament.”

Meanwhile, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said his team “will not be fooled” by reports of infighting in the Belgium camp ahead of the teams’ winner-takes-all World Cup clash.

“We must not relax, me also. He (Martinez) is a great coach and will know how to hurt Croatia,” Dalic told a pre-match press conference. “We will not be fooled by media stories and rumours. We are expecting the best from Belgium, a great team with excellent players.”

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022

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